PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night left for his second visit to Russia with a vow to improve ties with the Eurasian country.
Duterte will be in Russia for a five-day trip that will see him meet his "idol," Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as other world leaders, businessmen and the Filipino community there.
In his departure statement, Duterte said he welcomed this second visit as "an important opportunity to further broaden and deepen our engagement with a country we share key strategic interests with both bilaterally and in the larger Asia-Pacific region."
"In Sochi, I will meet President Putin to take stock of the state of our bilateral relations. We will identify ways of further intensifying cooperation areas of security and defense, combatting terrorism and violent extremism, and addressing transnational crimes," Duterte said.
"Certainly, I will take the opportunity to discuss regional and global developments that impact the Philippines and Russia as key points of convergence of national interests where we can work together," he added.
The President said the two countries were expected to sign key agreements, including in political cooperation, health, science and technology, and culture.
He will also join Putin and other world leaders at the Forum of the Valdai International Discussion Club.
"We are each expected to provide our own perspective on the topic 'The Dawn of the East and the World Political Order.' This will be an opportune occasion to articulate, to a key audience, our independent Philippine foreign policy – one that is based on respect for sovereignty and non-interference, the time-honored principles of international law," he said.
"Apparently this most basic principle of a rule that governs the relations between nations have been forgotten by some idiots in some parts of the world," the President added.
Duterte said he was also expected to meet Filipino and Russian business leaders "to encourage more economic linkages."
He will also engage academicians and the students of the Moscow Institute of International Relations University.
"Special cultural programs will feature the rich Filipino culture and heritage to the Russians and instill pride in the hearts of our kababayans in Russia who will witness the Bayanihan and the Philippine Madrigal Singers," Duterte said.
"I look forward to finally meeting the members of the growing Filipino community in Russia. This visit reaffirms the Philippines’ strong commitment to build a robust and comprehensive partnership with Russia. One that is based on shared interests, pragmatism, and mutual trust and respect," he added.
Duterte noted that "geopolitical realities and global developments require that nations like ours should have an agile foreign policy."
"While it is true that we value our long-standing partners, we must also be open to engage new ones. For the longest time, we have placed key nations at the margins of our foreign policy, failing to fully explore the potentials of mutually beneficial cooperation," Duterte said.
"With our independent foreign policy, we can say with much optimism that these are new and promising times. With hard work from both the Philippines and Russia, we can begin realizing the benefits of a partnership more than four decades in the making," he added. CATHERINE S. VALENTE